I Attended HealtheVoices18 and I’m Still Amazed
Disclaimer: “Janssen covered my travel expenses to attend #HealtheVoices18. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.”
I applied to HealtheVoices18 by making a video answering a few questions on why I would be a good fit; I have the video saved and I still can’t believe they picked ME! This was their fourth year of holding the HealtheVoices Conference, where they bring all kinds of patient advocates together by “Growing Stronger Together”.
I had to talk to all my doctors to make sure I was okay to travel, per my family. My doctors all agreed it would be fine for me to travel. Janssen had everything thought of in advance for the attendees, blankets, ice packs, couches, comfy chairs and we had been informed where there were pharmacies, urgent care and nearby hospitals. I explained to my husband that I would have a wheelchair set up upon my arrival in both directions to help me in the airport since I’d be travelling alone. I explained that he could go as my companion caregiver. He thought he’d be bored but now I know he would have loved it, meeting other caregivers and seeing the amazing speakers.
There were several things I needed to take care of before I went away for four days. I wanted to travel carry-on luggage only, I needed some clothes because I’ve lost so much weight that even my newer clothes were too big. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to accomplish a carry-on only but I did it! I bought three t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, a pair of jean shorts and an anorak jacket. I lost my jacket in our flood so I wanted to make sure I found one that I loved. The dress for the conference was to be comfortable.
HealtheVoices took care of everything! I was able to pick when I wanted to fly to Chicago and then what time I wanted to fly back home. I arranged with the airline a wheelchair through the airport and when I arrived in Chicago and there was a porter waiting as I got off the plane. Because I was carry-on only, we went to the meetup location, I spotted the HealtheVoices sign. I was then ushered into a car. I felt like a celebrity sitting in the back of the car being driven to the hotel all alone. The hotel was a 40-minute drive from O’Hare airport, check in was a breeze and my room request of a high floor was awesome. The view of the Chicago River was beautiful as was the hotel room.
I went to registration and received my welcome package. I went down to the restaurant and got myself some lunch and a glass of wine. I had received an email that there would be a Canadian meet up at 7 pm down in the bar. The Canadian meetup was a great way for the Canadian’s to get to know each other. This, the fourth HealtheVoices Conference, had the most Canadians ever. Most years there were only two Canadian attendees. This year we were eight strong. I never even thought to get a group photo because I was in awe of all the amazing advocates and the wide-ranging health issues we advocate for.
The actual conference was Friday, Saturday and Sunday, check out the agenda here. There were even various seating options during the sessions with sofas and side chairs and they came in handy. They had a wide variety of food for all of the meals and it was all yummy. I’m amazed at how everything had been thought of for the Patient Advocate attendees from snacks, drinks, blankets, a quiet room, a social room, heating pads, and ice packs. Sending a great big thanks to the Janssen team at the conference. On Friday, I started to get dizzy and was super nauseous. The Janssen team members recognized that I wasn’t right, they brought me into the quiet room and took care of me. I was able to get some food and ginger ale into my body and join in on the afternoon sessions. Thank you Janssen Team! You are amazing.
Sadly, the only thing I missed was the open mic night. I went to my room and went to bed early. Having the Patient Advocates involved in the whole weekend, talking, advocating, meeting fellow chronic illness warriors and others with completely different diseases was the right amount of balance. I met so many amazing people who I bonded with, some had my illnesses and others did not. One thing we all have in common is our mental health. It’s common across all illnesses and it’s something that we all need to keep vigilant of. The theme was, “Growing Stronger Together”. I know I came away feeling stronger, a sense of togetherness with my new friends and I feel I’ve grown as a Patient Advocate. I learned so much over the weekend and I’m so inspired by everyone and everything I learned. I spoke out loud about my depression, anxiety and suicide attempt. I also posted videos on my social media for the first time that weekend. This is the first real blog I’ve felt like writing because I’d been so wrapped up in everything that my illnesses brought to my life. I wasn’t living and feel like I found my way back to who I really am. and I am more than my illnesses!.
I’m so thankful that Janssen picked me to attend HealtheVoices18. Thank you for all the swag from the conference sponsors. The most important part of the weekend was meeting friends, making new friends and knowing I’m not alone on my journey that we’d already Grown Stronger Together!
If you want to see what HealtheVoices was about, they go check it out, https://www.healthevoices.com/virtual-experience.html
Thank you, HealtheVoices, Janssen and thanks for reading, journey with me…mini2z